Board books are special books which are designed with young children in mind. In addition to having subject matter which is appropriate for younger ages, board books are also designed to stand up to heavy wear and tear. Generally, board books are appropriate for children between ages zero and three, at which point children can start to have simple picture books. Most bookstores carry a selection of board books, and they are also available through Internet retailers.
Many publishers label their board book line as infant, toddler, or baby books, and some parents may be more familiar with this terminology. The subject matter in a board book tends to focus on providing lush visual imagery to spark the imagination of children. The board book may also include simple words or a basic plot. A variety of visual media may be used in board books, including painting, drawing, watercolor, collage, or a mixture of mediums. The intent is to draw the child in, sparking interest in books and reading.
The size of board books tends to be small, and they are often made in unusual shapes. The small size allows children to hold board books by themselves, allowing a measure of independence. Classic board books are made from highly compressed cardboard with a cloth binding. The pages are thick and easy to turn, even for young, uncoordinated fingers. Since many young children enjoy tasting books as well as looking at them, the cardboard also helps the book stand up to biting, drool, and associated problems. The pages in a board book are usually coated with glossy material; parents who are concerned about toxicity may want to choose an environmentally friendly publisher.
In addition to plain cardboard board books, many publishers also make textured board books. Textured board books offer a variety of sensations to the reader, stimulating young minds. A board book may play on a theme of textures, with a different texture on each page, or a board book may simply be covered with a textured material such as fake fur or ridged paper. Board books may also include holes or cutouts to add more visual variation. It is also possible to make a board book waterproof, typically by making it out of plastics, so that it can be taken into the tub.
The use of board books helps to promote print awareness for young children. Many adults also have fond memories of the books they were exposed to as toddlers, and a tradition of giving out baby books to new parents is common in many communities. For particularly famous books, multiple formats of the same book may be available, so that a child can have a copy of the book in board book form before graduating to a picture book version.